Edo Assembly: How lawmakers sacked speaker for ‘eating alone’
• Produced Four Speakers In Two Years
• Former Speaker’s Wife Drove Around In Speaker’s Convoy
Last week, Edo State House of Assembly became the first in this dispensation to produce four Speakers within two years.The latest change in leadership brought in Kabiru Adjoto, representing Akoko-Edo Constituency I, as the new Speaker of the 6th Assembly in the state.
Adjoto is currently one of the longest serving All Progressives Congress (APC) members in the House, having been elected on the platform of the then Action Congress (AC) in a re-run election ordered by the courts in 2009. When the AC later metamorphosed into Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), he was one of the legacy members to form the APC.
The longest serving member is the immediate past Majority Leader, Folly Ogedengbe, representing Owan West Constituency. He was among the three suspended by the new leadership for three months, the others being the erstwhile Speaker, Justin Okonoboh and his deputy, Hon (Mrs.) Elizabeth Ativie from Uhunmwonde Constituency.
The first Speaker of the 6th Assembly was Victor Edoror representing Esan central constituency, as the APC then agreed that the first three positions should be shared among the three senatorial districts of Edo North, Central and South. The governor, Godwin Obaseki is from Edo South, his deputy Philip Shaibu is from the North, while the speakership was zoned to Edo Central, which produced Edoror.
But no sooner had he assumed office than members began complaining that he was “eating alone.” It was alleged that he was always complaining to members that there are no enough resources for their welfare, only for the members to discover he was not being sincere with them and had to remove him. He was described as “a violently corrupt person, who has a flair for ‘eating’ government money, just the way the red-mouth squirrel does with palm kernel, which as it is eating one, is looking at another.”
The removal of Edoror produced the first female Speaker in the person of Hon. (Mrs.) Elizabeth Ativie, while Justin Okonoboh was her deputy.Not long after, Ativie was forced to step down to respect the tripod, which enabled Okonoboh to emerge as the Speaker.
Since Okonoboh came on board, there have been challenges, with members’ welfare not being properly taken care of, as some believe he is too soft for a governor, who has a reputation for being frugal.
The Guardian gathered that some basic allowances were stopped, while the governor publicly said the composition of the House of Assembly Service Commission was over-bloated.To worsen the situation, Okonoboh was alleged to also be cornering the little welfare package coming to the House, as well as monopolising contract awards at the Assembly complex and quarters.
In May this year, members had attempted to remove Okonoboh, but the governor got wind of it, and alongside his deputy, who is a two-time Majority leader and former member of the House of Representatives, had intervened, arguing that the tripod should be allowed to remain, so that Edo Central would not be left out of the scheme of things in the state.
But the members only sheathed their sword, waiting for the best time to strike, as they insisted that Ativie was more accommodating and liberal than Okonoboh.
Many of the members believed that being so soft, Speaker Okonoboh would always concur with the governor’s stand.Last Monday, however, the House leadership and some members, believed to be black legs, were shocked, when during plenary, the member representing Akoko-Edo Constituency II, Emmanuel Agbaje, read an impeachment notice.
Adjoto had earlier visited the office of Ativie as Deputy Speaker, where he had a brief meeting before they went for plenary. And 16 out of 24 members signed the impeachment notice. Drama started at about 11:30am, when the House Clerk commenced job of the day by making roll calls. While this was going one, Agbaje interrupted the Clerk and informed the Speaker that they had an impeachment notice signed by 16 members.
The anti-Okonoboh group immediately elected Sylvanus Eruaga representing Etsako West II, who is of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), as the protem Speaker, while Okonoboh was forced out of his seat. Eruaga took over, while lawmakers loyal to Okonoboh walked out of the chambers.
The lawmakers immediately elected Adjoto, the former Chief whip as the new Speaker, while Victor Edoror (Esan Central) was elected Deputy Speaker, and Rolland Asoro (Orhiomwon South) was elected Majority Leader.
But in a swift reaction, Okonoboh said his impeachment was a nullity and went ahead to announce the indefinite suspension of seven of the lawmakers: Kabiru Adjoto, Victor Edoroh, Osagbovo Iyoha, Emmanuel Agbaje, Peter Eruaga, Asoro Roland, Monday Ehighalua and Sunday Osasemigie, pending when peace returns to the House.
“What they did was illegal,” he said. “Those who purportedly impeached me have been suspended. This cannot happen at this time that we need peace in Edo State for development. All they said about me was rubbish. These people have been very ambitious; they are only after their selfish interest. They don’t want peace in our state, they don’t want the governor to work and that is the issue. I remain Speaker of Edo State House of Assembly.”
But after sitting, Adjoto said: “All we did today was according to the law. We did not know initially that we voted an incompetent Speaker. His level of incompetence cannot be described in words. Today is August 14, and we are just resuming. Then, the House is expected to adjourn again next week for another four weeks for normal holiday. Is that a normal parliament? So, all of us came together and said, ‘Enough is enough.’
“The institution deserves to be protected above an individual’s interest. Like I said earlier, the ex-Speaker’s wife has turned herself into the 25th member of the House of Assembly, to the extent that anything we discussed at executive sessions, the wife is told and would start calling our wives to tell them about it.
“The wife randomly uses the Speaker’s convoy, as if she is Mr. Speaker himself. The other day, together with the son, she went to the NYSC camp. When soldiers and policemen there saw the convoy coming, they all stood at alert, thinking it was Mr. Speaker, only to discover it was the wife and son alighting from the vehicle. That is desecration of the parliament.
“Mr. Speaker is not supposed to be a contractor, but we discovered that he awards contracts to himself without due process. We have cautioned him several times, but he refused to listen to our advice.“He (Okonoboh) just returned from the United States, where he claimed he visited eight states. He was telling us, gleefully, how he toured America, whereas, he shut down the House. We were not supposed to go on holiday, but because he was going to America to hold a party for his son that recently graduated, he shut down the House, thereby stopping us from working for Edo people.” Agbaje, who moved the impeachment notice, also defended why Edoror was brought back as Deputy Speaker.
He said: “I want to put on record that over the past one year, the Edo State House of Assembly has been in a mess. We have eventually discovered that the first Speaker, (Edoror), was removed six months after inauguration for selfish reasons, as there were persons who are self-serving and felt they could not manipulate him. So, they decided to trade in lies, and ever since, the Assembly has not known peace. It has gone from one turbulence to another and of course, we asked ourselves: ‘Are these the reasons Edo State people elected us? We were given the mandate to represent our people, to make laws for the people of Edo State and influence government to bring democracy dividends to them. Sadly, however, the Assembly we now have has fallen short of that and I wonder what the people of Edo State will be feeling. They are probably thinking that the people they elected to represent them are not really doing so. Rather, we had a selfish, corrupt and ineffective leadership entrenched here out of error. And today, we have said no, enough is enough.
“God has given us a good government that will reposition Edo State. We want to key in, we no longer want corrupt elements, who only want to enrich themselves overnight at the expense of the people. What we want is development and if there is any institution in this state that will not support developmental agenda of this government, we Edo people will not tolerate it. I want to assure the people that we have repositioned the House of Assembly and we will meet their expectations. We will support the government and perform our oversight functions, while working hand-in-hand to ensure that Edo State is better.
Reacting, Conference of Registered Political Parties (CRPP) led by Dr. Samson Isibor, commended the lawmakers for a peaceful takeover of power, describing it as the entire business of the House that must not be faulted.He said: “It is unfortunate, but it is a welcome development in the sense that this is democracy at work. The members have the right to choose their leaders, and since it has not resulted in violence, we are happy. This House has been a rubber stamp. We have seen several decisions, which were anti-people, and which this government has started executing, but the Lawmakers are not saying anything about it. They have not passed any bill that has benefitted the people.”
The party leadership and the governor immediately summoned a meeting at the party secretariat, as they wanted a reversal to status quo, but Adjoto and his team remained adamant and insisted that their decision was final.However, the party chairman, Anselm Ojezua, told journalists that the party was still consulting, and that what led to the crisis was personal disagreements among the lawmakers.
Also, former governor of the state, who is the leader of the party caucus, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, later met with the lawmakers, where they were all said to have agreed that what befell them is not reversible at the moment. And though Adjoto is already operating as the Speaker, but some persons from Edo Central Senatorial District are already kicking that they are being schemed out of the tripod.
A chieftain of the party in Esan Central Local Government Area, Comrade Mathew Emiohe, expressed disappointment over the impeachment of Okonoboh. He said Esan people have been completely schemed out of the political tripod in the state.
“We the Esan people are not happy about the impeachment of the Speaker who was replaced with an Edo North Lawmaker,” he said. “We want the Speakership position to return to Esanland. However, what happened at the Assembly goes to show that all is not well with Edo APC
“And that is why I’m concerned that something urgent needs to be done, because election will soon come. But if not, we are going to have serious problem, and we cannot afford to allow this problem to linger.”
In a statement signed by his Chief Press Secretary, Desmond Agbama, Oba Ewuare 11, said though he was not against leadership change in the House, but the way and manner it was done calls for scrutiny.
“The Benin Monarch, who watched with great disappointment, the throwing of chairs and use of fisticuff among members of the Assembly, said it does not portray them as honourable members, as it is a sign of desperation for power.
“Oba Ewuare II advises the lawmakers to always apply caution and democratic means and should observe the rule of law anytime they wish to change the House Leadership, in order to show good leadership example to the people they represent in particular and the coming generation of leaders in general.“The Oba of Benin reminds the Lawmakers of the need to abide by democratic principles of fair play, equal rights and justice for all in whatever they do.”
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